15.06

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We seem to be all about growth, round these parts.

Living in the middle of the countryside, as we do now, I’ve never been so in tune with the rolling change of the seasons. The hedgerows are swelling, narrowing the lanes that lead up to the fields from our house and groaning under the weight of elderflower, wild roses, and brambles. I monitor the latter’s growth most expectantly, with blackberry crumbles and pies and jams on my mind.

Ottilie is changing and growing faster than ever, too. She still has just one volume- loud- and bellows long strings of words from morning until bedtime (‘get downstairs Teddy, no dogs upstairs!’). I find she seems suddenly keen to do things independently, likes to sing a medley of nursery rhymes to herself during bathtime, and is fascinated by seeing what happens when she throws things from a height.

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And then there’s my growth, of course.

My bump seems to have suddenly become big and rounded, and with stomach muscles already relaxed from carrying Ottilie, it’s been a quicker process this time around. The baby stretches and rolls and punches away inside me, reminding me that it’s very much as real and present as its attention-absorbing older sister. Maybe it knows I sometimes forgot I was pregnant during the early weeks, and is making up for time now it can make its presence felt?

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I find the stretching, swelling, expanding nature of pregnancy strange at times, difficult to adjust to. It feels as though my body isn’t my own, and I worry it won’t ever be mine again. But I remind myself that I worried about this during my first pregnancy, and when I was breastfeeding, and yet eventually, somewhere in the gap between one journey of pregnancy and feeding ending and this one beginning, it was mine again.

I’ve never once stopped to appreciate it though, and often look back at photos from the past few years and wonder what it was exactly I was so concerned about, at the time. This body of mine was strong and lean in the two years leading up to my wedding, and yet I didn’t give it credit then. It softened in pregnancy and carried a baby girl safely and healthily from womb to earth, and was able to nourish that baby girl’s chubby arms and thighs and cheeks during the first year of her life.

And now to do it all again? It’s a gift, simple as that.

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I’m writing this to capture this moment of gratitude and contentment, before it slips away. Commit these happy thoughts to my laptop screen so that I can look back on them in weeks, months, years to come, and remember this season of growth.

And also because it feels good, cathartic in the way that writing often is, to admit to myself how complex this funny old relationship is with my body, my self. I remembering worrying first time around that it meant I wasn’t grateful enough for my pregnancy, or that it meant I was too silly and self absorbed to be a good mother. Madness, of course.

I think it’s normal for our perception of growth to waver and change. Well, it’s my normal anyway, and never more understandable than at a time when our body must expand so fast the skin can mark, crack, and split.

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So I’m writing this for my future self, who will look back on these photos one day and wish she hadn’t ever wasted time fretting over her body, and instead wish she’d appreciated this season of life, this six month baby bump, this growth, for all that it is.

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02.05

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This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week. I like to think I’ve been open in my sharing of my motherhood experiences, baring my soul at times about the joyful highs and tearful lows I’ve experienced over the past couple of years. To me, there’s nothing more powerful than talking about our experiences as parents- connecting with other mothers who are able to celebrate and console, relate and advise, all in equal measure.

We can’t help but feel pressure to achieve, achieve, achieve as women- aceing not only this motherhood gig but also simultaneously keeping up with work, ‘bossing it’ and ‘hustling’ and launching sideline start-ups, and staying fit and trim and looking like we never were even pregnant in the first place.

What I’ve learnt more than anything since becoming a mother is this:

It’s not possible to succeed at everything all the time.

The plate-spinning is relentless, and I feel I’m forever losing control of one thing or another at any one time. Either my work gets sidelined and Ottilie happily has my undivided attention all day long, or CBeebies goes on and suddenly I’ve got time to tick off my to-do list. In a week where I’ve managed to get the house cleaned and tidy and the laundry baskets emptied and the kitchen cupboards are full with ingredients for home cooked meals, you can bet your bottom dollar I won’t be making it out to any Pilates or yoga classes in the evenings because I’m just too shattered!

I’m learning that as mothers, we have to take care of ourselves as carefully as we do our precious children. Here’s to us <3

~ ~ ~

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1. Everyone’s experience is valid, but not all advice is appropriate.

By this I mean that whilst as a Mum you’ll undoubtedly be given an avalanche of tips and helpful anecdotal advice from other parents, but whilst the experiences of those giving the advice are always valuable in their own right, you yourself have every right to take it with a pinch of salt. ESPECIALLY in the early days, when the advice often is aimed at helping you get your nocturnal bundle of joy to appreciate the value of sleep, and the ‘breastmilk doesn’t fill them up enough so give a bottle of formula at bedtime/cosleeping is a rod for your own back’ type comments come in thick and fast!

2. Every baby and child really is unique.

And that uniqueness is apparent from before they’re even born! When I was pregnant with Ottilie, she would kick up a storm each night between about half 9 and half 11 in the evening. And then she was born, she used to be wide awake and ready to party at that exact time of the evening every single day!

In my opinion, the personality and will of a child is unique and individual and it’s all we can do as parents to nurture it. They all develop at their own predetermined rates- for example, at 19 months Ottie is stringing words together into little three or four word sentences, can count from 1-10 (though often forgets six and starts at 3!!), and blows my mind with her vocabulary. But she didn’t walk until 14 months, still trips over constantly and asks for help with going up and down the stairs even though she’s fully capable of doing it herself, and isn’t especially physically confident. I used to worry about her being slow to master physical skills, but now I’ve learnt to relax!

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3. The management of parental life admin can sometimes feel overwhelming.

I have these moments sometimes that make me feel really and truly like a Mum, and they’re always the silly, insignificant things. Cutting Ottilie’s nails so they aren’t too long and end up scratching her. Buying her new shoes when she’s grown out of the old ones (though probably noticing about two weeks late that she’s grown out of the old ones…). Keeping the house fully stocked with Calpol, nappies, and baby shampoo. Negotiating a sunhat and suntan lotion onto a reluctant toddler. Keeping an eye on her day’s intake of food- has she eaten a balanced diet, or subsisted on toast all day long?

These are the moments of parenting, the minutiae of making sure Ottilie is cared for and provided for in every single way, that make me feel most like a Mum and also sometimes overwhelm me with the responsibility of the job. It feels like my brain might burst sometimes, and I wonder if all parents feel like that or if I’m just still adjusting to my role as a parent?

4.You’re never. ever. alone.

You know you’re a parent when you utter the words ‘No Mummy doesn’t need help wiping, thank you’ whilst on the toilet…

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5. No food you ever serve your child will be as appetising as what’s on your plate.

We taught Ottie the word ‘share’, and now she uses back at us to request whatever we’re eating!

6. Bugs and colds and bouts of illness are just the worst…

Both for baby and you! There’s nothing quite like having to entertain an energetic toddler for 12 hours when you’ve got a raging migraine, and seeing your baby in pain is truly the worst thing in the world. Thank God for Calpol, is all I can say!

7. Having babies really does take it’s toll on your body!

During pregnancy I was super lucky and had allllll the good symptoms. Shiny, bouncy hair, strong nails, glowing skin, tons of energy. But afterwards I felt like a shell of a woman for months! Growing a baby for nine months, delivering them, and then supporting their growth through breastfeeding takes such a lot from your body, and it’s normal to feel depleted. Next time around I’m going to keep taking my vitamins, not give them up the second I give birth like a stupidly did after having Ottie!!

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8. Their joy is your joy!

It’s true what parents always say, that seeing your child happy is the best thing in the world. Treating Ottilie to a new book at the bookshop or a toy bake set for her pretend kitchen feels like a gift to myself! I even bought Ottie a pair of Peppa Pig slippers a couple of months ago despite my own pathological hatred of branded character clothing, because I knew she’d love them! That really is true love.

9. Other Mums are a lifeline.

There’s a generosity of spirit and sense of community amongst mothers that I think is truly unique. Our shared experiences make it so easy to connect and open conversation, and whether those conversations happen between you and your lifelong best friend, on your NCT group’s WhatsApp thread, or via Instagram DMs, it’s a special thing.

10. That rush of love at birth might take a while to come.

I did experience that initial rush of love for Ottilie, but then my overwhelming feeling in the hours that followed was just…of being overwhelmed!

It wasn’t until the following day, when I’d been taken down for an MRI scan on my spine to assess whether the epidural I’d had during labour had caused me permanent spinal damage (a real treat for a new mother, let me tell you!) that I suddenly was floored by a rush of love for Ottie and a desperate urge to be back with my baby so strong that I genuinely wondered whether I could crawl all the way back to the maternity unit rather than wait for a porter to come and push me back in the wheelchair. It’s to this day the most powerful feeling I’ve ever experienced.

11. You develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of nursery rhymes .

Though the fact that every rhyme time and playgroup I go to seems to sing a slightly different version of ‘Hop Little Bunnies’ does throw me for a loop.

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12. You might surprise yourself, as a parent.

I’ve always been an incredibly impatient person. If I can’t get something right straight away or achieve it immediately I’m just not interested, and I’ve got a fairly short temper too. But with Ottie, I’d say one of my strongest traits as a mother is how patient I am! Of course we have hard days and moments where I lose my cool after a week of constant tantrums, bribery and negotiations, but I never expected to learn to be this patient and calm as a mother. Now if only I could channel it into the rest of my life…

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13.07

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Reasons why this walk was such a lovely one:

We dodged the rainstorms that arrived without warning on and off throughout the day.

Jason and I were out together midweek, which hardly EVER happens.

The look of quiet boredom and frustration on Teddy’s face whilst he waits for Elsie to behave herself for long enough on the lead that they both can be released and begin tearing around like lunatics.

Kayakers on the river who nod and smile and say hello, who we nodded and smiled and said hello right back to.

Watching Elsie attempt to launch herself into the water every 100 yards or so, because she’s suddenly found her springer spaniel water obsession. Teddy knows not to even try, though sometimes sneaks in when we get distracted…

Spotting the last of the elderflower blooms. Next year remind me to collect enough for a bottle of homemade cordial before the season passes?

Baggy dungarees that are too comfortable for words, and don’t fall down every ten steps like silly maternity jeans…

Both dogs mad attempts to reach the pigeons that roost underneath the big wooden bridge, through the gaps in the boards. The pigeons sit there cooing away smugly, knowing they can’t be touched.

Blackberries already growing greenly on the bramble hedges along the water.

And last but not least, the puppy who wore herself out so thoroughly that she decided to take a nap right in the middle of the field, three quarters of the way round.

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14.04

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A   C O U N T R Y S I D E    S T A Y C A T I O N .

If you asked me to describe my perfect weekend away, I’d tell you about a weekend in the countryside.

I’d be with Jason and Teddy and Elsie, of course, and we’d spend our time taking long leisurely walks through the fields and forests (with no time constraints, or need to rush back to crack on with work), and then coming home to eat so much delicious food we feel as though we might burst, before falling asleep on the sofas for a spell.

This past weekend had all those things, and more.

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Our ‘Weekend of Happiness’ came courtesy of the lovely folk at FatFace, and it was such a treat. We’re really trying to treasure the time we spend just the two of us right now, since we know our lives are set to change so drastically in September!

We arrived at Bemba’s Barn (set in a sweet village called Biddenden in the heart of the Kent countryside) at around midday on Sunday, with our bags packed full of beautiful pieces from FatFace’s dreamy Spring Summer collection to see us through our stay.

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We were greeted by our host Emma, handsome labrador Bemba (who the barn is named after, and who Elsie become OBSESSED with during our stay!), and a bowl of freshly laid eggs on the dining table from Emma’s brood of chickens.

Ted and Elsie ran along behind us as we explored the barn- they were giddy with excitement, both at having such a big space to charge around in, and also because they’d spotted pheasants in the field behind the barn as we arrived!

Once our bags were unpacked, and after a brief pause to admire our new surroundings over a cup of coffee, we welly-booted up and set out down the lane that ran along the back of the barn.

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Jumper || Jeans

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Jacket

The bluebell woods near where we live haven’t sprung to life yet, but the little patch we stumbled upon just down a bank between some farmers’ fields were out in their full glory. There’s nothing quite like bluebells in the spring time, is there?

The light was low and shining golden through the trees, and we paused for a moment to appreciate the quiet and stillness. Well, as much stillness as you can get with two spaniels bounding around your feet…

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Now, we need to pause for a moment, in these beautiful bluebells woods, to talk about this pair of dungarees I’m wearing…

All my life, I’ve had this secret silly life goal of being a pregnant lady wearing dungarees.

I don’t know why, exactly, it’s just always been an idea that captured my heart! In the way that some girls grow up dreaming of their wedding dress, in all its magical ivory glory, I always dreamed of the day that I’d shimmy myself and a bump into a pair of dungarees made from the softest, most worn-in denim, perhaps with a rip here and a fray there to add to the cosy, well-loved feel.

And so, as you can imagine, these dungarees are something of a dream come true for me!

 Dungarees || Breton top

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FatFace don’t sell maternity wear, but their pieces are so well cut and have such a wonderful relaxed feel to them that just ordering a size or so up from normal makes their clothes totally ideal for wearing through pregnancy and beyond.

And these dungarees really are the *most* comfortable thing to wear with a growing belly. Despite still being fairly small on the bump front, I can’t bear having anything tight cutting into my stomach or putting any extra pressure around my abdomen. These are so roomy around the middle, I’m practically living in them at the moment!

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^^ Both Jason and I agreed that this jumper is one of the nicest pieces of knitwear he’s ever owned. You won’t believe the price either- a total bargain! ^^

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With the dogs suitably worn out (and as muddy as only a pair of fluffy spaniels can get during a 20 minute jaunt), we waved goodbye to the bluebells and the stream and the setting sun, and made our way home to the barn.

Dinner was made and eaten in a flash when we got back, and after an evening spent chatting and cat-napping on the sofas, we took ourselves off to bed for a night of sound sleep in the countryside quiet.

The perfect beginning to three blissful days away…

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This post was sponsored by FatFace, who right now are offering an exclusive online 15% discount to Cider with Rosie readers!

The offer is for 15% off a single purchase of full price merchandise at FatFace, and is valid until the 24th April. Quote ROSIE at checkout to redeem the discount!

(Terms and conditions: This promotion cannot by used in conjuction with any other promotion. Returned items will be refunded (on production of a valid receipt) at the discounted price paid. Offer cannot be used in FatFace stores.) 

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